AUSTIN - The House Public Education Committee voted 6-0 Tuesday to require Texas school districts to have students recite pledges of allegiance to the United States and Texas flags and observe a minute of silence during each school day. House Bill 793 is the combined effort of Rep. Dwayne Bohac and Rep. Dan Branch, both of whom had bills addressing this issue that were merged into HB 793.
Dr. William Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education and author of Our Sacred Honor, testified on behalf of the bill, which now moves to the full House for consideration. "This bill is about civic literacy, which is in pretty short supply," Bennett said. "The minute of silence suggests a tone of seriousness. It underscores the importance of the activity on which you are about to embark."
"I am proud of this bill," said Rep. Bohac when testifying before the committee. "I think it's a valuable civic lesson and the right thing to do. It unites us all as Americans, whether we're Republicans or Democrats or Independents."
"As Texans, we live in a unique state and are part of a special nation," stated Rep. Dan Branch, who worked together with Bohac to author the bill. "There is great value in remembering the sacrifices that allow us to live in freedom -- sacrifices that continue to this very hour. This bill would create daily opportunities for students to consider the state and nation in which they live."
Texas Education Code Section 1.003 directs public schools to fly United States and Texas flags each day school is in session. Additionally, Section 28.002 states that "a primary purpose" of the public school curriculum is to prepare "thoughtful, active citizens who understand the importance of patriotism." HB 793 provides that each student recite pledges to the U.S. and Texas flags unless excused by a written request from a parent or guardian. The bill calls for a one minute of silence following the recitation of the pledges during which a student may choose to reflect or engage in any silent activity that does not interfere with another student. Current law allows for a moment of silence, but does not require it. "I think that the moment of silence really prepares a child for the seriousness of the day," continued Bohac.
"Training young people to be thoughtful, active citizens is part of our job description," said Chairman Kent Grusendorf, who presided over the hearing. "This bill encourages the values of patriotism. It's good for kids and it's good for Texas."
Joint authors of House Bill 793 include Rep. Dwayne Bohac (Houston), Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon (San Antonio), Rep. Lois Kolkhorst (Brenham), and Rep. Rob Eissler (The Woodlands). To date, more than 90 House Republicans and Democrats have signed on the bill as coauthors. A similar bill, Senate Bill 83 by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee last week and awaits consideration by the full Senate.
"Children are moldable and teachable. That's what we as adults should be doing -- teaching them civic literacy embodied in such things as the flag. Values of freedom and justice. Values of honor and liberty. This bill is a thoughtful step in the education process of our children. It's the right thing to do," concluded Bohac.